I have a dream

Martin_Luther_KingThe 15th of January is the birth date of Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929 – 1968. At the age of 35, in 1964, he was the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

This well known phrase is explored in ‘Who Said That First?’

Notably said by Baptist minister Martin Luther King in Detroit in June 1963, then again with tremendous effect at the Lincoln Memorial,Washington, in August 1963. The expression is simple and could have been used previously by others at other times – there is an echo of Stephen Sondheim’s words (‘I had a dream’) introducing Ethel Merman’s hit number ‘Everything’s Coming up Roses’ in the show Gypsy (1959), but such was the impact of the Lincoln Memorial speech there is little doubt that when the phrase is used nowadays, Martin Luther King comes to mind first.

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From ‘Who Said That First’ by Max Cryer.

Dr. King delivered the “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. Along with Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” it is considered to be one of the greatest speeches of all time. The full speech is available for reading at The King Center’s website.

Image: Martin Luther King, Jr. giving a lecture, 26 March 1964.
Source: Library of Congress. U.S. News & World Report. Photographer unknown. No known copyright restrictions.

Only … shopping days until Christmas

The idea of reminding people how much shopping time is left before Christmas is not new. On 19 December 1900 the Los Angeles Times displayed a reminder: ‘There are only (counting today) five more shopping days till Christmas.’ Four days later the Washington Post took up the cry: ‘Only one more shopping day until Christmas.’

At the time Gordon Selfridge was working with Marshall Field and Company in Chicago. He may have picked up the idea from the newspapers mentioned, but certainly he soon instructed his staff to drive the same slogan, which put a real sense of urgency into the shopping lead-up to Christmas. Before long it was used worldwide.

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From ‘Who Said That First?’ by Max Cryer

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Who is credited with the word spam coming to mean junk email?

In 1937 the Hormel Food Co. launched a competition to find a name for a canned meat product. Apparently the company didn’t want to call it ‘pork loaf ’ (though that’s what it was) and was not permitted to call it ham because the meat was shoulder, rather than hindquarter. A prize of $100 was to be made available to a name the firm approved.

Kenneth Daigneau from NewYork came up with the name Spam – a condensed version of spiced ham – but without claiming it to be actual ham.

Thirty-three years later the British comedy group Monty Python’s Flying Circus performed a bizarre television sketch in which a run-down café served only ludicrous variations of Spam. The customers’ indignation climaxed in a ridiculous song whose lyrics consisted simply of the word Spam repeated.

The sketch was first broadcast on 15 December 1970. Its popularity, and the association of spam with something unwanted but in over-supply, is credited with the word coming to mean junk email.

(There is no truth in the rumour that the title of the original Hormel tinned Spam was an acronym for ‘Something posing as meat’.)

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From Who Said That First? by Max Cryer

P.S. Monty Python to reunite for live one-off show in London.